Brainwashing is a very emotive term and if you were to unpick it the visual image is quite nasty as if someone was to take a person’s brain and completely clean it of everything they have ever learned. Of course, initially it was a term coined to offer some kind of acceptable reason why a number of American soldiers actually defected to the Korean side after being taken prisoner by the enemy during the 1950s.
You can expect this to be the case otherwise how could you possibly explain why crack troops were simply giving up and going across to the other side. This would cause all kinds of unsettling tidal waves to crash across the sands of patriotism and belief. Wasn’t everyone supposed to believe that US troops were so well trained and lovers of President and homeland they would never have allowed themselves to willingly go to the other side unless some dreadful process had befallen them?
No one really underpinned what brainwashing might actually mean in term of a psychological reading and thus the term stuck. What we do understand now is that brainwashing is unlikely to exist in the conventional sense and that we are more likely to change our minds after a number of smaller factors are taken into account. For example, certain religions which pile on the guilt or manipulative family members, friends or lovers for example who exert too much influence can be significant. Then of course there is the ceaseless round of marketing techniques and blatant advertising that bombards us every day; we are quite capable of falling victim to all these kinds of persuaders.
This is something that finally provoked me into settling down to write my novel The Unseen, which was published a couple of years ago. My main thesis was the concept of subliminal psychotic induction which is also known as SPI. This is where messages are sent and unknowingly received by the subconscious. So, for example a flashing picture which crops up on the internet momentarily can actually end up being a covert kind of ‘brainwashing’ after a while.
I wondered what might happen if people had absolutely no idea what was happening to them; after all it must have some potential to do harm otherwise its use would not have been banned in the 50s and 60s where it was used to make cinema audiences buy more soft drinks for example having seen ads for Pepsi flashed onto the screen momentarily during the interval.
What would happen if a hacker turned their attention to an SPI device I wondered; it would be hard to stop one would imagine as literally it would be gone in a flash. This interested me to such an extent The Unseen soon wrote itself!
This book is where I introduced DI Sean Fagan for the first time and he investigates the ritual murder of three young women.
I decided it would be thought provoking to link their murders to the world’s most popular computer game, Princess Kay-ling. When high-tech units from the police force examine hard drives taken from the victims’ PCs, traces of subliminal psychotic induction are discovered. It becomes obvious very quickly that all the victims have trusted and then obeyed characters who appear in the game. These characters manage to manipulate the women dramatically and when a fourth woman is murdered Sean realises he is looking for a serial killer who may well be capable of global influence. I then added a separate element where Fagan soon realises the Government is aware and observing. That is not all, soon he discovers to his alarm that both his daughters are also caught up.
I became quite obsessed myself while I was writing the book with how people can get so easily sucked into terrible situations for all kinds of reasons outside of SPI and how it is too difficult to escape. You know when you feel you are in too far to turn back; it was certainly worth writing about.
The Unseen is available from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats.